Pronk basin

Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, China

Recently reunited with matching water fountain

This very rare Chinese porcelain basin was acquired by the British Museum in 2003. The Museum has held a matching water fountain for over one hundred years. The pair would have been used as a set, for the washing of hands after a meal.

Both pieces are decorated with famille rose enamels. The basin's exterior is brightly enamelled with garlands on a rose-pink background and turquoise and sepia cross-hatching surround the neck and base. The inside depicts two pairs of chinoiserie figures sitting in a garden, a lady holding a saucer and a gentleman with a crenellated hat holding a pipe. The water fountain has two large medallions, each with one figure matching those on the basin's interior. Below the medallion depicting a man with a pipe, a hole was pierced for the attachment of a metal tap.

Both pieces were commissioned by the Dutch East India Company. They were probably designed by the successful Dutch painter and draughtsman Cornelis Pronk (1691-1759). The porcelain was made at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, but decorated in the workshops in Canton, Guangzhou province. By the early eighteenth century the Company was losing its dominance over trade with China and commissioned Pronk's designs to try to strengthen its market position. Unfortunately the costs of producing wares such as this was so high that only small consignments were ever shipped, making them very rare today.

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More information


R. Krahl and J. Harrison-Hall, Ancient Chinese trade ceramics (National Museum of History, ROC, 1994)

S.J. Vainker, Chinese pottery and porcelain, (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)


Height: 37.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 2003,1129,1


Purchased at auction with funds from the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund


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